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Auto Insurance: Understanding Your Policy


Turn on the television. Browse the internet. Read the newspaper. Look at a billboard.  Look in the mail. Chances are good that you will find an insurance company peddling low-cost auto insurance to the masses.

Insurance companies recognize that now more than ever, consumers are looking to save money on auto insurance. Consumers need to understand, however, that not all low-cost insurance is created equal. Many insurance companies are pushing policies with inferior coverage and provisions that take away your rights as a citizen.

Whether you are in the market for auto insurance or simply want to review your policy to make sure that you are adequately insured, please follow this advice:

Liability – Bodily Injury:

Liability or bodily injury coverage is the amount of coverage that the insurance company will provide to protect you in the event you are sued by another person for injuries caused in an accident that you caused.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania require all drivers to have a minimum of 15/30 in coverage – meaning $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.  This is woefully inadequate. Insurance carriers try to push you to lower coverage limits under the guise that they are saving you money without telling you that you can increase your coverage limits to a higher level without very much of an increase in the cost of your premiums.

Liability – Property:

Property damage liability coverage similarly protects against losses that result when a policyholder damages another person’s property with their car even if there are no personal injuries.

Collision & Comprehensive:

Collision and comprehensive coverage do the exact opposite of liability coverage – instead of covering the losses suffered by another person, these provide coverage to your vehicle after an accident. If your vehicle is damaged in a crash, collision insurance covers the costs to repair or replace your vehicle. In the event your vehicle is damaged due to something other than an accident; ie:

  • natural disaster,
  • flooding,
  • vandalism,
  • theft, or
  • fire,

comprehensive insurance kicks in and provides coverage to repair or replace your vehicle.

PIP Coverage:

Most policies provide coverage for personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payment benefits following an accident.

Pennsylvania requires drivers to maintain at least $5,000 in PIP benefits to pay for medical expenses following an accident. Often overlooked and unknown, PIP coverage also can provide limited coverage for lost wages following an accident – usually up to a limit of $5,000 depending upon the policy language and conditions.  In New Jersey, the basic PIP policy provides $250,000 in medical coverage.


This coverage is often listed on a policy as UM/UIM, but do not let the short abbreviation fool you, this is very important coverage. This coverage is there to protect you and your family in the event you are hurt in a car accident due to the fault of an uninsured or underinsured (too little coverage) driver. The coverage works as follows:  if you are hurt in a car accident and the at-fault driver has little (ie. $15,000) or no insurance, you can claim your policy seeking the limits of the UM/UIM coverage.  With so many drivers uninsured and underinsured driving on the roads, you must purchase as much UM/UIM coverage as you can afford.

Additionally, if you live in Pennsylvania and you have multiple vehicles, make sure that request STACKING of the coverage (ie. 100/300 coverage becomes 300/600 coverage if 3 vehicles are on the policy).  Stacking is a cost-effective means of protecting yourself and your family.

Tort Option:

This is a little-known, but very important component of every insurance policy in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  In Pennsylvania, it is referred to as Full Tort and Limited Tort coverage.  In New Jersey, the coverage distinction goes by the names Limitation on Lawsuit and No Limitation.

The Full Tort option provides you and the members of your household with an unlimited right to claim compensation as a result of a car accident that causes injury or damages. With the Full Tort option, a person injured in a car accident can claim economic damages (i.e. lost wages, medical bills, property damage, out-of-pocket expenses) and non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life) without limitation. Consumers with the Full Tort option maintain all of their legal rights to claim for injury and damages irrespective of how severe the injury may be.

The Limited Tort option places significant restrictions on your right to make a claim for accident-related injuries and damages.  With the Limited Tort option, a person injured in a car accident can still make a claim for all economic damages (i.e. lost wages), but can only make a claim for non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering) if the injuries are serious.  A serious injury is defined as an injury resulting in death or serious impairment of bodily function or permanent disfigurement and is often difficult to establish.

Insurance companies often “steer” consumers to policies providing for Limited Tort or Limitation on Lawsuit coverage under the guise that it is cheaper.  What insurance companies don’t tell you is that by selecting such an option you have severely compromised your right to seek compensation in the event you are injured due to the fault of another driver. Additionally, the cost savings are often nominal and certainly not enough to justify a consumer to waive his or her right to make a claim for injuries caused by another driver.

Make no mistake, the insurance industry pushes the Limited Tort option because it benefits insurance companies and hurts consumers. Consumers with Limited Tort would be wise to make the switch to Full Tort coverage. Full Tort ensures the preservation of your rights and the rights of your family and is what I recommend to my family, friends, and clients.

If you would like a free consultation and review of your insurance policy, please contact Sean E. Quinn, trial attorney and founder of Quinn Injury Lawyers. Quinn Injury Lawyers is a preeminent personal injury law firm with offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.   We are Your Voice.  Your Advocate.  Call us today.  (215) 360-3666.